Love stinks in these 29 microfictions about cheating, divorce and all kinds of splitting up.
These sometimes sublime, sometimes raunchy slices of love lives coming apart by Czyzniejewski (English/Missouri State Univ.; Elephants in our Bedroom, 2009, etc.) can often sound like flash fiction, having largely been culled from previous publications in obscure literary journals, galleries of poetics and, yes, flash fiction websites. Taken at more than a surface level, though, they more closely resemble molecular gastronomy—a medium where a creation’s parts are transformed through close attention and high pressure into something completely different. In “We Were Young,” a new relationship takes a wrong turn in the middle of a long train ride: “This wasn’t where she wanted this to go. I was all love letters and she wanted to know who I’d fucked over.” “Pregnant With Peanut Butter” portrays a man using his severe peanut allergy to indulge a lover’s preoccupation with sexual asphyxiation. Introductory lines are also compulsively composed to keep your attention, as in “I flew back to Dallas when the dog died prematurely from plastic surgery” or “Instead of getting married, I insisted that Julian and I rig an election.” There are a few nods to magical realism and absurdity—superheroes in “When the Heroes Came to Town” and the “Fuzzy Stuffed Animal Candy Council” in “High Treason,” for example. Yes, a few are a bit twee—“The Braxton-Carter-Vandamme-Myers-Braxton-Carter Divorce: An Outline” unfortunately speaks for itself. Others, like “Hot Lettuce,” about the travails of the bassist-concubine of a heavy metal band, or the hopelessly titled “The Meat Sweats” are cartoonishly vulgar. Yet some, like the portrait of grief in “Bullfighting,” do manage to get it right.
Heartbreak delivered by a few dozen tiny paper cuts.